Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 30, 2018

 

God comes to us in a variety of ways every day. Some of them are ways we expect God to be present like the Eucharist at Mass, Rosary, Devotionals, and in our Prayers. But, sometimes God comes during our hours at work, or during playtime, or when we are silent long enough to hear God’s voice. Oftentimes, I have found that I am most in touch with God when I see Him in others; when I recognize the living Christ in some that the world might dismiss.

This past week I was told that I was not ‘a real priest’ and that I had no business saying that I was one! The person who said this was very direct that all priests must be recognized by the Pope in Rome and be celibate, too. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that there are many forms of being Catholic, that Pope Francis already stated we are a valid form of Catholicism, and that celibacy has only been around for a little over 400 years! She had made up her mind that I was not of God, not valid, and so she missed anything good that I had done or could ever say. I wasless than herand in doing that she may have missed something wholesome and life changing.

It reminded me of a story! There once was young woman named Pam, who worked in downtown Chicago. Every morning, she encountered a heavyset, middle‑aged woman in a shabby coat soliciting spare change in front of an old brick church. She greeted everyone with a smile and a pleasant “Good morning.” Pam always gave her something, even though she found her own ability to makes ends meet rather tough. After almost a year of this routine, the woman in the shabby coat one day just disappeared. Pam always wondered what had happened to her.

One beautiful day, the woman in the coat was in front of the church again, still wearing the same, shabby coat. As Pam reached into her purse for the usual donation, the woman stopped her. “Thank you for helping me all those days,” she said. “You won’t see me again because I’ve got a new job.” With that, she reached into a bag and handed Pam a wrapped package. She had been standing at her old spot waiting, not for a handout, but to greet the people she recognized that had helped her; she gave each of them a doughnut to show how thankful she was! As Pam walked away, she felt the goodness of God and was grateful that she never once failed to help another.

We must allow God to speak to us, and we must afford ourselves the chance to learn the language that God uses to communicate with us. Our ability to be in touch with the Creator will calm our anxieties and refresh our minds and give a freshness to our existence. Being a recipient of God’s voice will allow us a new birth and find joy in life and depth to the beauty around us. God comes, but when God comes – and how God chooses to come – may just surprise us if we are willing to listen! 

How will you find ways to allow God to speak to you? Are you open to God speaking to you from the least likely of people and places? Or, will you simply miss God again?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 23, 2018

 

This past weekend I took the day off and Katelyn and I went to Sight & Sound Theatres in Lancaster and saw the play, Jesus!

Jesus is a musical stage adventure about the most famous person ever to walk the earth and the everyday people whose lives He changed forever, and I must tell you that after witnessing the play, (I say witnessing because it was more than just watching a play) I am counted among those who were so moved! This show made me feel Jesus again!

With huge sets, live animals and the latest technology and special effects, the 2,000+ seat theater put on a massive musical production that brought these Bible stories to life! We sat just a few rows back from a 300-foot, panoramic stage that included live animals such as horses, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, camels and alpacas! It was amazing!

In one dramatic scene, Peter’s boat, used during the storm scene, is operated by a computer and can rise 8 feet in the air and rock back and forth with the waves – all while holding Jesus and his disciples. You actually feel the wind and water! At the critical moment when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, Peter exits the boat and begins his journey toward Jesus. But, suddenly, as so often in life, Peter begins to worry, and he takes his eyes of Jesus and flounders. Soon, Peter disappears below the water’s surface.  Jesus reaches down and pulls Peter out of the sea. Peter is saved. Jesus is disappointed.

Jesus tells His followers that He is the true vine – the one true real vine – and that they are the branches, whose task is to bear fruit and share in His life. “Abide in me.”  That is what Jesus says. In other words, if you abide in me, whatever you want, it will come to you. Apart from Me there is no true life and you can do nothing.

Peter learned that on an angry sea. I learned it once in a jail cell and when money became my only god. If Jesus is the vine, we must make our home in Him, and not in the world. Authentic Christian discipleship and life knows the Savior intimately and that includes our fellowship in His holy Church. For it is there where the great mystery dwells until we behold him, like Peter, face to face.

How will Jesus save you this week? What problems are you sinking from and where have you turned away from the One who can actually save you? How have you been faithful – or not so faithful – to attending Mass and what will you do to return and abide with Him this week?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 17, 2018

 

The Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison about an African-American man whose color renders him invisible, published in 1952. It addressed many of the social and intellectual issues facing African Americans early in the twentieth century and I found this passage speaks to me.

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; no am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible; understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded my mirrors of hard, distorted glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything except me.”

I may never know what it feels like to be a person of color, disregarded as less than human. Even enshrined in our own Constitution, before we amended the document, was the defining of a black person as less thanothers. From my younger days when I transgressed the law and I dealt with issues of my own person – from sexuality to value to vocation – in almost every aspect of my life I have known what it is like to feel less than and to feel of no value; worthless. Even as a priest and after all that I helped build, I still grieve the value of what my self-worth is. I wonder what my life would have ‘felt’ like had anyone stopped to remind me of their love for me and the value of me being part of this world?

One of the hallmarks of being a Catholic is that we see the inherent dignity of every human being. To deny that every creation of God is good and of value, is to – at its depth – deny that which makes us all validly Catholic, validly Christian, validly human.

The basis for the theme of Human Dignity, the bedrock of Catholic Social Teaching, is that humans are created in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of any factors or reasons we can think of, individuals have an inherent and immeasurable worth and dignity; each human life is considered sacred.

In our society, human life is under direct attack and the value of human life is being threatened, but here at Saint Miriam we believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every decision must be that it enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

St. Francis once said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

How will your walk and your talk this week help someone who feels less than, like me? How will you ensure that they know and feel and believe of their inherent value and worth?

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 9, 2018

 

This past Lent, a friend posted an image that asked people to pray for all priests against the Enemy. It spoke to the deep belief that during Lent, the holist season of our Christian year, the Great Demon is fighting for every priest to fall.

Now, normally I never post things like this, or share them on social media, but this one was different for me. It’s not because I do not believe in evil, but because I often try not to think that Satan is any more concerned with me, than with anyone else in the world. But for some reason, this image spoke to me deeply, as it went on to say that when we use language to criticize our priests and pastors, we join in fighting for their failure. I find that to be true more than this year than ever before.

Perhaps it is because I am more tired. Perhaps because we have survived so many attempts to close us down because of our radical and unconditional love found in few Catholic parishes. Perhaps it is because I am feeling more vulnerable, as my personal life changes. Whatever the reason, and whomever is plotting to harm me, I feel the evil ever present this year; more than in years past.

Last month, Pope Francis called for the wording of the Lord’s Prayer to be changed so that it blames the Devil, rather than God, for “leading us into temptation”. He said the prayer had been badly translated from the Greek used in the New Testament and the new version would better reflect its true meaning.

The Holy Father frequently refers to the Devil in his homilies. He uses various terms to refer to the ‘Prince of Darkness, including Satan, the Evil One, the Seducer, Beelzebub and the Great Dragon.’ A lot of people in today’s world are uncomfortable with the idea of evil being real, but anyone who knows the spirituality of many order priests will not be surprised. What may be surprising to some is that oftentimes we feel the presence of evil. We know people want us to fail. Every time we fail, Satan wins. Every victory for Satan brings chaos.

Whatever is to happen, I am reminded that I should not fear. That God is in control. If Saint Miriam is ever to fail, it will never be the work of someone, or their gossip, or harmful and selfish words, but the failure of good people to hold onto a gift from God.

The life of a Christian is a continual battle against evil, that is what the Pope has said. And St Francis reminded us all when he spoke on darkness that “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.”Perhaps some of the evil I feel will win, but only if we fail to light the dark with our light.

How will you allow evil to win this week? Are you willing to simply be complacent and allow someone to destroy good? Do you pray for those who serve God every day?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 2, 2018

 

“Listen…”

I listen for a living. I hear from others all day, every day. I listen to their concerns, their problems, their personal issues. I listen to their confessions and desires and regrets. I listen to their hopes and dreams. I listen to ensure our parish is relevant to their lives, and in the lives of their children, and families. I listen to hear deep griefs unresolved, and nuance for insights into how we can help them to be more fulfilled. But, the one thing I find exhausting is listening to myself.

All professionals must continually grow in order to stay relevant. They do so by listening and reflecting on their “own stuff” to become better at their craft tomorrow; this is especially true of those in the helping professions. Personal reflection provides everyone with benefits, while focusing on individual experiences. Personal reflection enables all of us to process and make meaning of all of the great (and not so great) learning and working experiences we’ve had. Everyone stands to gain from engaging in some type of reflection.

Boud, Keough, & Walker, 1985, says that “Reflection” is a generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences, in order to lead to a new understanding and appreciation. But I like the writer of Psalm 42 who actually preaches to his own soul in a moment of self-reflection, self-listening, and self-discovery. This is one of the most important lessons in life. Verse 5: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (So, he’s talking to his soul!) “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

I find that given the way I’m hardwired, much of my self-talk is very defeatist. I tell myself all kinds of bad news and I promise myself that I am never quite good enough. I can imagine my bad self, saying, “You’re supposed to be giving me good news. But all I’ve heard is the bad news.” And I team up often with my old self and say some more bad news. It’s no wonder I get discouraged and thought my life was to always be unhappy. Do you do that? 

Both St. Francis and Buddha were men of deep prayer. St. Francis had in common with the Buddhists the importance of nonviolent love and commitment to peace, in practice as well as in theory. That’s a crucial lesson here, learn to preach to yourself. Learn to listen to yourself. Learn to find hope within and change will come; happiness, too, but one must do so with a nonviolent love and commitment to peace to self first.

Are you listening to yourself, or talking? What do you do when no one else is watching? Who are you when you are alone?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 26, 2018

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  This is the famous line from John (John 12:21) and it is also the plaque that will be affixed, beginning Easter Sunday, to the pulpit at Saint Miriam. No, you will not be able to see it, unless of course you make your way to the ‘priest-side of the ambo! (Which, by the way, you are always welcome to do!) I have included an image of the engraved brass plaque that bears this line and that will soon make its way to a new home to remind me, and all who serve you what it means to be a priest, what it means to be a servant of others, and what our goal and ambition should always be.

We are not to be police officers, therapists, politicians, or egomaniacs; we should not bear down upon your life in such a way that makes you want to run away, and we should never use our position of authority to abuse you. We shall never, at least here at Saint Miriam for as long as I am pastor, use the furnishings to proclaim God’s love as a ‘bully pulpit’. No, we are to be bearers of the Christ to you and to the world. We are to be ministers and bring you Jesus every week. Together, we are to be bearers of light!

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Yes, what a remarkable passage to look toward Easter! “Some Greeks,” John writes, came to Jesus’ disciple Philip and said: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” When Philip told Jesus about this, he responded: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Let us all die to the things of this world in order that we might serve and glorify the One we worship and adore. And may we find ways to bring to life anew this wonderful line from scripture.

How will you use the coming Easter light to bear that light to others? Is Christ, the Light, within you? How would someone be able to tell? Are you willing to bring light to others?

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 19, 2018

 

It is almost here! Passion Week, Holy Week! In a mere few days, we will gather for Palm Sunday and then launch into a week of remembering and growth as Christians! To do so, we must make it our every intention to attend services, reflect, and honor the fact that those very same people who passionately welcomed Christ with waving palm branches, were many of the very same people who demanded His execution just days later…

This three-day celebration (known as The Triduum) begins with the Holy Thursday Mass and continues on Good Friday with the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. At the end of this liturgy, we leave the church in silence, waiting to celebrate the glory of our Lord’s Resurrection. Then, on Saturday at sundown, it is finally here! The Church re-gathers to celebrate the final, and most grand moment of the Triduum: The Resurrection of our Lord!

On Holy Thursday, we experience the washing of feet. Humbling, awkward, displaying visible weakness, and yes, oh so needed in a day and age when these attributes are often replaced with power, stamina, and strength. It is a ritual of service that sends the message that the Eucharist is how we treat one another as it also reminds us of our call to treat others – all others – with respect, with dignity. It is, at its heart, far more than mere ritual, but an openness to recommit to be one with each other, and to recognize and support one another and to serve one another with our exception.

On Good Friday we gather to remember the Lord’s passion and death. It is always about the Cross of Christ. We gather and focus on the redemptive aspect of God’s suffering for our sins, but also on Jesus’ effort at reconciliation. You see, it was and remains Jesus, who willingly gave up by His life, through the Passion that shows us how hard it is to work toward reconciliation and unification. And yet, every year, we do just that as a Church of God, as we honor that Cross and humble ourselves to sit and dwell and relive that which gives us eternal life.

Then we arrive at the Great Easter Vigil! On Saturday, as night falls across the earth, we gather in vigil and hear the amazing news that Jesus is THE Christ, but also our companion, and our brother, Who is no longer dead, but is risen from the grave! We no longer have to fear the empty tomb. It is here where we gather in darkness to listen intently on the words of Salvific History and then, in a blink of an eye, candles, lights, and trumpets respond the splendor of the King! He is Risen! And with Him, we gather in joy to another Easter!

Our Jewish brothers and sisters have been celebrating Passover remembering the events leading to their release from slavery in Egypt and we, too, will gather these three days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to celebrate ‘our Passover’ from death to life in Christ! It is a time of remembering the triumph of God’s love over darkness and death. It can change our hearts deeply, but only if we allow it.

In the coming week, we gather to celebrate that God is present and always working in our lives. May we each experience the joy of new life in our own way this Easter Season, and may we begin with an intentional dedication to observing the Passion of the One Who loves us still…
 
 
Reflection questions for Holy Week:

 
What does the death of Jesus mean to me?
 How has God interceded in my life? 
Have I honored God in my life? Will I take a few hours out of my week and honor Christ? After hearing the Resurrection story, what events do I see in my own life that are in need of resurrection?
 How can I carry on the story of the resurrection to others this coming year?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 12, 2018

 
This week, on Thursday evening at 6:00pm, we will once again gather for the Stations of the Cross. Only a few will show up; it is far too burdensome to actually plan to sit with Jesus as He dies for our sins. After all, Thursday evenings are for other things that make us more excited, right? We have dinner, drinks with friends, working late, going to the gym, or seeing a movie. But…to sit with Jesus? To journey with the Lord who gave us eternal life? To walk the path that he took before dying on that cross perched a hill called Golgotha for all to see? No, thank you very much, but I think I will decline again. After all, I have more important things to attend to…I will worry about my soul on another day.
 
The Stations of the Cross depict 14 events in “the Passion”, (In Christianity, the Passion is the short final period in the life of Jesus covering his entrance visit to Jerusalem and leading to his crucifixion on Mount Calvary, defining the climactic event central to Christian doctrine of Salvation History) of Jesus Christ, beginning with Jesus being condemned to death by Pontius Pilate and ending with His body being laid in a tomb. The pious practice of praying the Stations of the Cross originated in medieval Europe when pilgrims were unable to visit the Holy Land, so instead “visited” these Holy places through prayer in their local parishes all around the world. People took great comfort that they actually paused along enough every week of Lent to walk the journey and give thanks to Jesus for dying for us. In our modern era, not so much.
 
St. Francis of Assisi authored Stations of the Cross that popularized the devotion throughout the world. Today, you’ll find Stations of the Cross in almost every Catholic Church, but some, like here at Saint Miriam, are available throughout the year for meditation and reflection.
 
Jesus carried the cross (weighed between 80 to 110 pounds) an estimated total distance of four kilometers over 1.5 hours, as He was flogged and scourged and disrespected. We only ask that you join us for 15 minutes in the comfort of our sanctuary and carry nothing but your thanksgiving for what Jesus did for us.
 
Christ’s Passion started long before Calvary. And so, will ours…
 
How might you make time for Jesus this week?

 

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 5, 2018

 
The Sin of Prejudice.
 

So, last week, I did something I never did before in my weekly devotion, I used an image. This week, I am called to do something new, once again, I am writing a devotion and a blog! (Hence the title, too!) You see, I had an entire devotion written and ready to post. Then came the call. I scrapped it, and now this will serve as both my devotion and my blog. Yes, it is that important.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a woman who left me not one, but four voicemail messages, then subsequently called me on my cell phone two more times, and ended with an email. I called her back, despite my reservations. It went to voicemail! Enter aggravation.

The woman began her messages by stating she was ‘the mother of a bride.’ These never go well. You see, I have learned that brides and grooms need to do their own work, make their own way, and place family and friends out of the main commerce lanes when planning their wedding. When a parent calls me, it is normally because they are interfering or intervening! In either case, not good, and my antenna goes up quickly! Enter this woman yesterday.

In my voicemail to her, I began by thanking her for the voicemails (all six of them!) and stated clearly that Mondays are normally my full day off. I thought, perhaps, she would take the hint and leave me be. I was wrong. She returned my call.

The woman was very nice and began to explain that her daughter came from a very Catholic family, but decided to marry someone this coming July (yes, this July!) and that they could not find a priest to officiate the wedding ceremony. She gave me the date and I began to discuss this with her when she then dropped into the conversation that her daughter was “no longer practicing and had not been to Mass since her Confirmation”, and, to make it even more complicated, she was marrying a confirmed atheist! I told her I understood and that ‘love is love, but to have a priest present where not only one, but more than likely both parties would not view the sacrament, was probably not a good idea and something that I would have to pass on. She then began to literally beg me to change my mind and told me that she discussed it with her daughter and ‘all would be well.’ I almost relented when she then began to discuss the differences between the Roman Church and us.

She berated me that we accepted gays and lesbians and then told me that we should not allow people to marry without being sure they are committed and go through PreCana. I rebutted by reminding her of Pope Francis’ own words on loving and accepting gay and lesbian people, as well as him marrying a couple, impromptu, on an airplane! She replied that he was just wrong on that and she was sure he regretted his actions, and then told me that she and her husband have two gay friends and that they “understand because they are ‘not normal’ they can never be Catholic.”

Needless to say, I told her that I found her words to be not only hurtful and unchristian, but ignorant. She has bigger issues! After all, I reminded her, she has a daughter about to marry an atheist on a beach in New Jersey!

I will never understand prejudice. I will never get hate. I will certainly never get both coming from a Christian, and a practicing Catholic. It is against everything we are called to be. It is contrary to to the Gospel. It is a shame. Jesus wept yesterday, and I am sure that if He had been in this woman’s home, as He was last Sunday throwing tables over inside the temple, there would be not a dish unbroken!

Part of our sinful nature includes a false sense of pride and it is the sin of pride that we find working in much of our prejudices. We find it very tempting to exalt ourselves in order to be thought well of, or accomplished, or better than the normal person. This is a sin that must be dealt within ourselves and with God’s Spirit in us; but when we shoot harmful arrows at others (either in our thoughts or vocally, as this mother did), categorizing them as “less than ourselves” and that they will surely reap God’s judgment, we all fail. Perhaps we think that God will never deal with us, as He has to deal with others because we feel our prejudices not so bad. But this is our old nature and God accepts nothing of our old life. He is removing from us everything of our old life and it is part of our growth in Christ to see that our prejudices are put to death by becoming more Christ like. This woman, and many of us, have a long way to go.

Faith tells Christians that God is at work at every moment in an individual’s life and at every moment of human history, and to reject this truth is to harm others, and that is not only not Christian, it is inhumane.

Women and men suffering from leprosy were perhaps the most universally despised social group in St. Francis’ day. The Lord led St. Francis to recognize them as his brothers and sisters. His respect for them as equals in God’s creation brought peace to these afflicted ones.

Peace is a gift from God. Human actions that cooperate with God’s grace promote peace in the world. Those that reject the godliness of others, harm the very fabric of God and humanity. That is something I will never accept at Saint Miriam, while I am pastor. I pray you will not either.

This is Lent and a time of change and introspection. Let us pray that what happened to me will not happen to others. Let us pray for those who harbor hatred in their hearts, because that is not of Jesus. It is not of us here.

And, no, I will not be celebrating this wedding.

 

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 26, 2018

 

So, I begin this refection with an image; something I rarely do. Now, let me explain!

In Philippians we read, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I have to be honest, I’ve never been good at any of that! Oh, sure, I’ve tried and tried, but I am almost always what I call, ‘baseline anxious’! I simply worry about everything.

Now some would say that is good for what I do as a priest and pastor, but my primary care doctor disagrees! We all need to find peace and quiet and without it, surely, we will die earlier than we should. So, I decided to use this Lent to try and change things and to take just a little more ‘me time’, but also to be a little calmer. Enter John Carty!

John’s best friend lost his mother recently, and John, being a good man, went to be there for him in his time of loss and grief…all the way to Israel! A journey so long that afterwards, he spent some time to visit the Holy Land and even thought of me. That is one of the images he sent to me: The actual Sea of Galilee!

As I reflected on this simple image, I saw the beauty and serenity in its simplicity. “Jesus walked here!” I thought. I can walk with Jesus now, too. As Jesus once walked on those long and arduous days, and when he needed rest, this is where He went. I can go with Him now, too, even from here!

As I walk with Jesus in my mind’s eye, I am calm and loved and cared for. It matters not what the world thinks of me, I am loved and whole. I am at peace.

St. Francis once said, “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” I pray this Lent, it will be so for me, and for you.

How might you find peace this Lent with Jesus? Will you allow Jesus to come to you and walk hand-in-hand with Him by the sea?